ST. PETERSBURG, November 1 (R-Sport) - Russia captain Igor Denisov is set to return to the Zenit St. Petersburg side Friday, the Russian champions’ coach Luciano Spalletti said Thursday.
Denisov trained with the Zenit first team Thursday, ending a six-week exile with the reserves that began when he argued with management in protest at the large salaries doled out to new arrivals Hulk and Axel Witsel.
The club said he had gone on strike demanding a pay rise, but Denisov said he was merely concerned the new players' high wages would hurt team spirit.
“I’ve spoken with him, he’s ready and I can count on him,” Spalletti said.
The coach added that he would include Denisov in the squad for the Russian Premier League game at home to FC Rostov, but did not say whether he would start.
“We’re starting everything afresh, as if nothing had happened,” he said, but declined to specify whether Denisov had apologized to him.
Denisov’s return to first-team training followed an apology to the club and fans, Zenit said Thursday, but Spalletti said that Hulk had earlier stepped in to try to heal the rift.
“When Denisov was excluded, Hulk said to me: ‘Gaffer, if I go to the management and ask them to return Igor to the team, will it help?’”
“It’s a clear example that shows the team spirit and what the team wanted.”
Denisov has played 211 games for Zenit since breaking into the first team in 2002, and has 34 caps for Russia.
National team coach Fabio Capello made Denisov captain when he took over in July and stuck with him during the dispute with Zenit.